Quickies

Skepchick Quickies, 12.5

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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15 Comments

  1. I don’t know, this seems like a bit of a flawed study to me. If your four options are [religion] [religion] [absence of religion] [criminal], that just seems really broken to me. If you’re going to include things like “rapist” on your list, then shouldn’t you also include more options in that category? Having “rapist” be the only “criminal” option seems like you’re TRYING to get a really dramatic result.

    1. Yeah, I had the same response. The idea that someone is more likely to be a rapist just because they backed into your car without taking responsibility for it is a very extreme connection that most people won’t make. More like, “he hasn’t done anything morally repulsive enough for me to think me might also be a rapist, but he could be an atheist.” Bad study.

    1. Yeah, I used to think my local crazy person was pretty good (a guy who calls himself Mark Peeters and believes he’s being hunted by NASA because he has evidence that escaping earth’s gravity is physically impossible), but this is incredible. Best. Conspiracy theory. Ever.

    1. But why not pick a “universally untrustworthy” group that ISN’T so emotionally charged? “Politicians”, “criminals”, “mafia”, “thieves”… You could prove the same point without having to resort to something as loaded as “RAPISTS”. Because honestly, study results saying “ATHEISTS TRUSTED THE SAME AS RAPISTS” is just going to make people roll their eyes and assume it’s a biased study. Picking something less loaded might have had a better chance of engaging people with the results and getting them to question biases.

      1. Have a close look at both the study itself and the Pharyngula commentary linked above – We don’t want to condemn a study because popular reports on the study oversimplified or distorted what was actually done, or because we wish the study had addressed more issues than a single study can properly address. The purpose was to discern exactly why atheists are perceived negatively. That could plausibly be several things – For example, are people having a disgust reaction to atheism, like they would have towards a person contaminated with filth and carrying an infectious disease? Or are they instead having a distrust reaction? Or something else? To distinguish _which type_ of negative reaction is actually occurring (more to the point, which _emotionally charged reaction_ is actually occurring) you pick something that sharply and specifically triggers such a reaction.

        Getting people to address their biases is admirable and vital, but way beyond the scope of this study. And you can’t effectively get people to address their biases until you’ve first determined whether they’re having a disgust bias, or a trust bias, or some other bias. Judge them by how well they attacked this single very specific question, because individual scientific studies necessarily aim at very narrow targets.

      2. “But why not pick a “universally untrustworthy” group that ISN’T so emotionally charged? “Politicians”, “criminals”, “mafia”, “thieves”… You could prove the same point without having to resort to something as loaded as “RAPISTS”. Because honestly, study results saying “ATHEISTS TRUSTED THE SAME AS RAPISTS” is just going to make people roll their eyes and assume it’s a biased study. Picking something less loaded might have had a better chance of engaging people with the results and getting them to question biases.”

        Because not everyone distrusts politicians, because some of the questions asked related to stealing and having a category like criminal or thief would then have been correct and therefore no longer indicative of distrust. I can’t pretend to be an expert in this area but it’s not that simple and any group universally distrusted is going to have negative emotions associated. I think exactly the same complaints would be leveled if the headlines had been “Atheists ranked alongside members of the Mafia by religious people”. There may have been a better choice but you are over simplifying the problem without understanding the issues.

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